Tyne Gateway: Local area innovation

What was the issue?

To find an effective way of making use of local knowledge of the barriers to employment, of reducing dependency on the council and of increasing entrepreneurialism so that people felt empowered to take control of their own lives by contributing to innovative solutions to problems.

In addition, it was felt that members of the community would respond more positively to someone like themselves helping them, who have a shared language and experiences. This differs from previous delivery models where members of the council have gone out to work in the community but have, at times, struggled to gain the confidence and participation of the communities they are trying to serve.

What were the barriers?

The initiative involves partnership working across two local authorities as well as across other delivery partners. Therefore differences in management information systems were challenged.

The complexity of the benefits system and the criteria that must be met when attempting to financially incentivise the move to employment also had to be overcome. 

In terms of the projects being delivered by the community entrepreneurs (CE), barriers have existed in some cases among professionals who have been wary of ‘ordinary’ people being employed to work in deprived communities to tackle child poverty. 

What was the solution?

Training community entrepreneurs and developing local projects

The initiative consists of two stages. Firstly, parents who have experienced poverty are trained to become community entrepreneurs. Secondly, the community entrepreneurs develop local projects that focus on tackling child poverty at local level, using their own knowledge and experience of living below the poverty line, as well as suggestions from the wider community to generate ideas.

As part of this initiative Tyne Gateway has trained and recruited in total 20 parents, 10 from North Tyneside and 10 from South Tyneside, to work in deprived communities as community entrepreneurs. They receive ongoing in-work training, which includes a Foundation Degree in Community Entrepreneurship, which was run in partnership with the University of Sunderland. The Foundation Degree has been written specifically for those doing the job of community entrepreneur and it is a blend of personal development, community enterprise – combining community development and the development of entrepreneurial thinking – and business planning, to help the community entrepreneurs to plan and execute projects within the communities. This last one helps them to learn how to effectively cost up new service delivery models, social enterprises or products, such as their training courses.

Tyne Gateway has worked in partnership with a number of organisations that have a responsibility to tackle child poverty in North and South Tyneside. A steering group was formed to take the strategic lead. This group consists of senior members of staff from North and South Tyneside Council as well as partner organisations including: further education colleges, housing providers, the University of Sunderland, Jobcentre Plus, the NHS and voluntary organisations. The group has been effective in breaking down barriers that do not necessarily allow for the flexible and innovative approach needed for this initiative to succeed.

Members of the steering group and additional senior staff from partner organisations have been mentors to the community entrepreneurs. This has enabled the development of projects that challenge current ways of working, with support from leaders in the organisations involved in tackling child poverty. Without the mentoring system it is likely that the community entrepreneurs would have faced more barriers in trying to work more effectively in tackling child poverty. For example, it has helped getting effective introductions to and buy-in from key stakeholders as well as practical support in terms of obtaining access to meeting room facilities.

What was the outcome?

There have been a variety of positive outcomes through parents moving into employment as community entrepreneurs. These include

  • Twenty parents have moved into employment and are undergoing continuing development through studying for a Foundation Degree.
  • A pre-employment course (awareness raising course) helped parents to develop the knowledge and skills required for working in the community. It also helped them to apply skills they already had, and increased confidence: "With a little bit of support I have overcome the barriers to  employment." (CE); "I didn’t realise what skills I actually had until doing the awareness raising course." (CE)
  • Family incomes have been raised. Among the 20 community entrepreneurs, household incomes have risen by an average of £223.80 per week. When additional expenditure is taken into account, such as childcare and travel costs, they are an average of £99.00 per week better off:  "I’ve never had this kind of money before." (CE)
  • There has been a cultural shift in attitudes towards benefits: “I would never go back on benefits again."(CE); "The thought of actually working, that I am contributing and not living on benefits is huge to me because I’d been like that for years."(CE)
  • Aspirations of the community entrepreneurs, their partners and their children have been raised: "It’s definitely given me higher aspirations." (CE); "[My ambition is to…] go to uni to become a fashion designer." (CE’s child)

Seventeen projects have been developed. Even though the projects are still relatively new, Tyne Gateway partner organisations can see the difference that the community entrepreneurs are making and realise that challenging traditional ways of working can be effective: "I guess I should hold my hands up and confess that I did previously (and I’ll stress previously!) feel quite sceptical about some of it [the CE Projects] which maybe meant I was creating barriers…at the end of the day I would never presume to know better than someone who lives within a community what it is that a community needs." (Member of staff from a Tyne Gateway partner organisation).

The Community Entrepreneur projects include Future Focus, a course designed for hard-to-reach parents. The course has been very successful at helping parents develop the skills necessary for work and providing work shadowing opportunities, and has had the best attendance of any course at the children’s centre where it has been running. They are now offering some employment through Future Jobs Fund; and a childminding course specifically for parents wanting to become childminders who will offer out-of-hours childcare but at day rates. This will not only provide individuals with employment, but childcare for families who want to seek work outside of regular nine-to-five hours.

As of the end of September 2010, the projects have engaged 625 people.

Contact details

Jill Baker
Tyne Gateway Project Manager
Telephone: 07799 676 278
Email: mail@jillbakerconsulting.co.uk